Optus data breach: Worker accuses customer of being a hacker

An Optus worker has accused a data breach victim of being a hacker after they mistakenly used the wrong name when addressing them in a chat message.

Queensland woman Skye, who wished only to disclose her first name, was having a query investigated by Optus virtual assistant, Merlinda, on September 26 after being instructed to use the platform instead of the telco’s phone service to cancel her services.

She landed in Merlinda’s hands after being passed between multiple other assistants who had been unable to help with her request to have cancellation fees waived following her information being compromised in the data breach.

A frustrated Skye begun by telling Merlinda the previous assistant disconnected their chat “because he didn’t know how to resolve” her query, according to screenshots shared with news.com.au.

She then questioned Merlinda about why she should continue paying a company that didn’t uphold its obligation to protect her personal information.

“You want me to continue paying the company that clearly doesn’t understand or value privacy and cyber security? Pay the company that breached my data?” Sky wrote.

“You did not meet your contractual obligations, so why should I have to?”

The confused employee responded, but seemingly to the wrong person.

“We are taking the responsibility Benjamin that is why we took actions right away,” she wrote.

The mistake infuriated Skye even further, with her responding saying it was “another example of you letting data get into the wrong hands”.

Merlinda responded with an attempt to assure Skye the case of mistaken identity wouldn’t harm her, because it was only a chat message.

Skye then asked if Merlinda wanted to send her Benjamin’s identification, or at least “check that Benjamin doesn’t have my ID”.

Merlinda went on to accuse Skye of being a hacker.

“Do you want me to send it to you? Are you a hacker as well?” she wrote.

Skye was left fuming by the insinuation and demanded to speak with Merlinda’s manager.

“It was quite unprofessional in my opinion,” Skye told news.com.au.

Her opinion of the telco was earlier obliterated when she spent six minutes listening to a group of workers chatting and joking when she phoned the customer service line.

“I was just listening to their laughter and everything that was going on in their office,” Skye recalled.

She said her call seemed to have been answered automatically and when someone finally noticed, she was placed on hold briefly before being hung up on.

Skye is facing more than $1000 in cancellation fees, which she said she was not currently in a position to pay.

She and her partner had decided to fork out $150 to cancel their Optus modem, but will wait a year and a half for their other services to expire before they switch to a different telco.

It’s understood Optus is investigating Skye’s situation however refused to provide comment on why she was accused of being a hacker and repeatedly denied having her cancellation fees waived.

A spokesperson confirmed customers on repayment programs would need to either pay themselves out of their plans or fork out for expensive cancellation fees if they wanted to switch.

“For customers who are on month-to-month plans without a device, they are able to simply exit their contracts without any cancellation fees,” the spokesperson told news.com.au.

“Customers who have a repayment plan for the device will be required to pay off the remaining device repayments or applicable cancellation fees as part of their agreement with Optus.”

Keep the conversation going, email brooke.rolfe@news.com.au

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